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“We emphasize modesty and humility in our practice, but some students do not appreciate the spiritual aspects of the art and look at others as objects or toy to be played with, no considerate of the feelings of others. Indeed, we live in a ‘me, me, me’ society and approve of selfish behavior. Losing the spirit of practice and the meaning of Aikido, the art itself becomes another common tool for one's self-promotion and constant quest for power, authority and recognition. We must see such arrogance and egotism as the acts of those who are spiritually destitute and have lost their way from the path of Aikido. What to do, it is really so sad.

Aikido practice, indeed, takes much courage, patience, commitment and wisdom.”

- Rev. Kensho Furuya


Learn to "throw away"

When you look in the mirror, do you see a ghost? Sounds like an absurd question, but although many of us don't see a ghost staring back at us in the mirror, many of us act like ghosts throughout the day. Think about it, a ghost is caught in purgatory forced to relive some moment from their past over and over again. They hang around the same place and do the same thing.

Many of us spend our days relentlessly pursing some thing with the mindset, "If I could only get that thing then..." It is only after we acquire that thing (hopefully) that we realize its futility as we are no closer to happiness than when we started. Furuya Sensei called these things, "gendai seikatsu shukan byo" or modern lifestyle diseases.

Sensei advocated a type of "throw away" learning when he wrote, "As many people might think, learning is not a process of accumulation. This means that it is not a matter of taking and taking for one's self. In True Learning, throw away first. Take and throw away, take and throw away. People understand taking, but not throwing away. If I were to explain it in simple terms, "throwing away" means to take a fresh start in everything you do."

A ghost is someone who cannot "let go" and thus becomes trapped.

A true warrior knows that life is not about pushing themselves to acquire more and more but to learn how to let go of those things which hold them back.


Mind Your Manners

Mr. Miyagi from the movie The Karate Kid said, "No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do." This thinking is not that far off from tradition Japanese values. There is a famous Japanese proverb "kodomo wa oya no kagami" (子供は親の鏡) or that "children are a reflection of their parents." As student's of Aikido, we are mago-deshi to O'Sensei. Mago means grand like in grandson and deshi means student. We are mago-deshi because we can trace our lineage back to O'Sensei. However because we are all mago-deshi we must act like direct student's of O'Sensei.

As Aikidoist and martial artists, it is believed that how we conduct ourselves is a reflection on our dojo, our teacher, our art, on Hombu dojo and O'Sensei. All Japanese martial arts follow this same line of thinking.

Warriors are supposed to be experts in kokkifukurei or self-restraint in all matters of etiquette and decorum.  A famous proverb is Yaiba ni tsuyoki mono wa rei ni suguru” which means that the greatest warriors surpass all others in etiquette and decorum.

Beyond what one's physical body can do, one's character is paramount or as Voltaire said, "With great power, come great responsibility." Furuya Sensei said it best, "Always act as if your teacher is watching." Be careful how you act, it is a reflection of more than just you.



What do you get to do?

jackToday, we are at a most unprecedented time in history. Never before have we been given the freedom that so many of us enjoy today to do whatever we want and be whoever we want. Because we have this freedom it is our responsibility not to waste it. When Japanese people see something being wasted they say, "Mottainai." Mottainai is almost a sacrilegious feeling that something is being wasted. Here is something I read that inspires me to be more productive:

If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.

If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering.

If you can read this message you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.

We often lose sight of things that we already have. We are lucky. We get to spend our time the way we want to. We choose budo thus we must throw ourselves into our practice because there are many who would like to but don't have the opportunity, resources or capabilities to do so.

Don't waste! Don't let this day go away lightly, spend it wisely.


Take control

jackThere is a great saying from the movie Sanjuro, "The best swords are the ones that are kept in their scabbards." At the heart of all martial arts training comes the understanding that our minds are our greatest weapons and simultaneously our worst enemies. In the Japanese traditional arts, the highest level one can attain is the ability to show restraint. A master is supposed to be someone who has kokkifukurei or the ability to demonstrate their skills in decorum and etiquette but more importantly their ability to exercise self restraint at all times. Restraint can only come after years and years of training. Restraint is the ability to do the right thing at the right time which one might call seido in Japanese or precision in English. Learn to control yourself and your emotions so that other people cannot control you.  

I can do it!

i-can-do-itThis is a very interesting picture.  To me the "Which Step Have You Reached Today" isn't so much about where have you reached today but rather where are you as a martial artist on any given day.  As martial artists we are never at the "I won't do it" or "I can't do it" stages.  It is not in our nature to be defeated before we even start.  As martial artists we are typically at the "How do you do that?" stage as our baseline.  From there at any given moment during our training we vacillate somewhere between trying, doing and succeeding.  Martial artists are doers and we tend to set a goal, figure out a way to succeed and set about doing it.  That is the nature of training. At what stage are you at today?

Spend your days well

archery光陰矢のごとしKouin yanogotoshi "Time flies like an arrow."

Before his passing, Furuya Sensei would often say, "There is no time left." By the time I understood his admonishment, he was gone.  So much time has passed since those times.

Upon realizing his words, the questions arise, "what will we do with our lives?" and "How will we live them?"

If there is truly no time left then life itself as we know is fleeting - It is passing us by as we speak.  Understating this reality in Buddhism is called mujo or impermanence.

To understand budo is to understand death. Death, not in its morbidness, but in its impermanence and this inevitability teaches us how to live our lives. The glass can be either half full or half empty.

To see the fleetingness of life as something bad then we are looking at the glass as half empty. To see the glass as half full, we are realizing how in which to live our lives with what little precious time we have left.

Time does fly like an arrow, but we get to choose how and what we aim it at. What do you want to do? Who do you want to be? Time truly does fly by. Spend your days well for tomorrow may never come.

Nobody's perfect

relax copy 猿も木から落ちる saru mo ki kara ochiru "Even monkeys fall out of trees."

We often think that we "should" be this way or that way.  The word "should" is about control.  When we engage in "shoulds", we give away our ability to control our own lives by choosing  what it is we want and we allow our choice to be governed by something or someone else.

Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to us is for someone to see us when we are most vulnerable.  Then, the cat is out the bag so to speak, and we can drop that false front that we all carry around.  When the jig is up we can relax because our so called worst fear has been realized and then we can take back the control of our lives.

Sometimes the best thing for us is the worst thing that can ever happened to us.

My favorite quote from the book, Tea Life, Tea Mind is:

Be rebuked Stand corrected and learn

Do you want to be great?  Then make some mistakes.  Relax, nobody's perfect.  Even monkeys sometimes fall from trees.


Flashback Friday: Pay attention

attentionFlashback Friday: Please enjoy this article Furuya Sensei posted to his Yahoo group on September 23, 2004. In Aikido, one of the greatest skills to develop is to be able to think clearly and assess the situation without bias - this is essential to act correctly and do the right thing to protect one's self and others.  This is one reason why, in traditional martial arts, they continually talk about mushin or "no mind" which really means "unbiased mind" or "clear mind."  Today, we don't realize how important it is to think clearly.

When you ask a question, please think.  When I answer you, I think long and hard before I answer so that I can give people the best answer.  I look at everything from the standpoint of training.  I am not concerned with my popularity or the politics or what I can do to buy your favor.

As much as I consider my answer to you, you must consider the question you ask and what the answer means.   This is the simple basic, process of learning and education.

Just to ask me questions to satisfy a passing curiosity or to gossip does no one any good at all.

Some people ask me questions and I immediately realize that they have not been paying attention.

Endless discussion about this and that and how much of this really pertains to your practice?  How much of the questions you ask really will help you with your understanding of what you do during training?

Looking at how one handles their sword, we can immediately determine their skill before they even draw it.  When a student bows into the mat before practice, one can quickly tell where their mind is.  By the questions some people ask, one can immediately tell where this is going.

Please remember that this group as well as my Daily Message is an extension of my dojo and I am here to teach you Aikido.  Please pay attention, as you would in class. . . . Oops!  I shouldn't say that - Please pay good attention more than you usually do.  Pay attention like you are facing a lion (I am just a pussycat, really) who will leap and attack you if you make the wrong move!

Hahah!  Have a good day today!


"The more you know, the less you have to carry." - Mors Kochanski

warrior copyMors Kochanski, the famous Bushcraft survival expert once said, "The more you know, the less you have to carry. The less you know, the more you have to carry." When we are confronted, there is sometimes a lot going on so our minds can easily become  distracted.  With this confusion sometimes comes defeat.

The place that all warriors are striving towards is equanimity.  For lack of a better definition, equanimity is a fluid type of focus where our minds are sharp and aware but never stuck on one thing.  Training provides us with the opportunity to develop our physical skills which gives us a lot of options.  These options can sometimes bog us down and we sometimes fall prey to "option overload" and we freeze.  Over time we learn how to hone our minds and so the body might know many things, but the body only knows one - calmness.

Calmness is the harmony of one's thoughts which is called equanimity in Buddhism and the "non abiding" mind in swordsmanship.

Calmness comes from having faith in one's training and trust in one's teachers.  With this acceptance comes a sense of confidence in one's self and thus one can be calm.

How does one attain this "calmness"?  This can only be achieved with constant and consistent training.

Our bodies are our greatest asset, but our minds are our greatest weapon.  One cannot exist without the other.  Both require training.

Mors Kochanski's quote, "The more you know, the less you have to carry. The less you know, the more you have to carry." can be thought of as the reason why we need to constantly and consistently go to class.

Choose to be better.

monday Another week starts and, like most of us, we haven't fully recovered from the previous one.

How does one choose one thing over another?  It comes down to what our priorities are and what we hope to achieve.

If our ultimate goal is to lose weight then the obvious choice is to not eat at McDonalds.

If we want to get good at a martial art like Aikido then the obvious choice is to go to class.

The hardest part is when we forget in that one moment what our goals are.  This is why experts recommend that we constantly review our goals throughout the day as a reminder and review them just before going to be and as soon as they wake up.  Reviewing them many times throughout the day enables us to remember and if we schedule it just right then it helps us stay on track.  Reviewing them in the morning and at night enables our goals to sink down into the subconscious layers of our minds where our goals can be put into play within our minds.

It is said to take 21 days to create a habit and 90 days to create a lifestyle.  This only works if one is "doing" it for those 21 or 90 days.  Any day missed can lead to one losing their way.  This is why it is important to review them regularly and in the morning and at night.  Our minds cannot differentiate between conscious action and sub-conscious thought.  Therefore if one is able to put time into just affirming the goals in their minds regularly and in the morning and at night then the 21 days are easy to arrive at.

Anything is achievable with action but just about impossible with inaction.  Don't wait.  Think about your goals regularly and choose to be better.

People aren't out to get you, they are just in it for themselves.

choke samurai arrow copy

One of the saddest things about humans is our proclivity to choose ourselves over others.  Everyone does it to some degree or another.  It is just one of those things that is left over from a past time of scarcity and fear.

Martial artists are people of character and thus act accordingly.  We are people who choose the difficult paths in life.  One of those unbeaten paths is that of selflessness and compassion.  We put ourselves forth for the benefit of mankind, not to destroy it.

Furuya Sensei once wrote:

To show the proper spirit in regi-saho (etiquette) is a very difficult part of Aikido practice. This is only because we think of ourselves too much and not enough about others. Thinking of others, we learn how to appreciate their effort, but only thinking of ourselves then we never have time to care for others. We become selfish people and this is not Aikido at all. In fact, it is contrary to all Aikido principles.

Practice regi-saho in the dojo and learning to practice it with the proper mental attitude and spirit - maybe this will be the most difficult of all to learn - more difficult than the hardest throw or pin. Once you master it, then practice it in your daily life.

The weird circuitous logic is that when we focus on others, we actually get the benefit.  Fighting, ambition and competition is sometimes thought of as being part of our DNA.  This is contrary to the way of nature.  In nature, nothing struggles to happen and nobody takes more than they need.  Selfishness is man made and something that we could all do without.

Each and every one of us is to some degree selfish, but it is the martial artist who is aware of it and does their best to suppress it.  We choose to do something else and to be better than all the rest.  Sensei always used to say, "Act as if your teacher is watching" so that we would learn to be selfless and act like the people we are trying to become.

Challenges help us change



























"Those that seek the easy way do not seek the true Way." - Dogen

The fact of the matter is that training in the martial arts presents challenges.  There is no such thing as a prodigy.  No one wakes up or is born just "knowing."  Each of us has to put in the time, energy and work - no one is immune.

When we are presented with a situation that is difficult or challenging we have two ways of looking at it.  The first, and healthiest way, is too see it as an opportunity.  The second, and less healthy way, is to see it as some type of burden or as a oppressive catastrophe.

Challenges help us change.  Nobody ever improves themselves by playing it safe.

So, it is not that change needs to come by way of challenge.  It is just how we are wired as human beings.  When things are good, we tend to not look inward.  There is an old sports saying that is pertinent, "Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn."

Warriors are people who deal in change and their currency is challenge.  To improve anything, one needs to first look upon a challenge as an opportunity for growth and ultimately necessary for change.  Warriors of old understood that adversity is the necessary building block of character.

Change requires challenge and challenge causes change.

The greatest things are accomplished by ordinary people























Furuya Sensei believed that Aikido is egalitarian - open to anyone willing to put in the work.

When we think about accomplishment, sometimes we think that only people with super-human like gifts are able to reach the highest pinnacles.  Sometimes this is true in that the JFK's of the world with the opportunity, pedigree and prowess are successful.

However, in more times than not, the person who reaches the highest summit is usually just a seemingly average person, but under that ordinary exterior they posses the drive, determination and perseverance to succeed.

Strong, fast, young, athletic, flexible, good-looking or wealthy doesn't get one out of bed nor does it motivate them to go to class especially when they don't want to.  The catalyst for success is a mixture of having the drive to go and do something, the determination to do it and the perseverance to keep going in spite of obstacles.  Drive, determination and perseverance know no gender, age, athleticism, or socioeconomic background.

We are all the same - we all suffer, are all lonely, are all insecure and we all must put in the work to accomplish something.  Aikido is egalitarian because only those seemingly ordinary people who are willing to put themselves out there, put in the work and keep going despite the odds get good.

Got balance

balance copy  
















Happy July 1st!  Welcome to the literal and figurative halfway point of the year.

On this specific day of the year, we have the unique occasion of having one foot in the past and one foot in the future.

This idea of being in the middle makes one think of balance especially when it comes to living our lives.  Obvious questions might be "Did we get done what we hoped on January 1st" or "What do we still want to get do?"

Having it all means having a balance between all the elements that make up our lives: work, family, social, and pursuits like Aikido training.

Furuya Sensei said, "Training is like brushing one's teeth - it must be done daily."  With that in mind each aspect of our lives like work, family, social, and training are like each one of our individual teeth which must be brushed daily.  We cannot make any single one more important than the others - each deserves its just desert.

Life has a way of getting in the way, but if we let any one aspect over take any other then balance is lost.  Albert Einstein said, "Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance, you must keep moving."  Keeping moving means doing our best to strike a balance between our work, families, social obligations, and, of course, training.

Aikido training teaches us that life is a matter of balance.  What we want out of life depends on what we put into it.  Balance requires that we put a little here, take a little away from there in a constant process of evaluation.

Today is the beginning of the rest of the year.  How will you maintain your balance?

How badly do you want it?

7 samurai  




Mitori-geiko (見取り稽古) is a style of learning used in Japanese traditional arts.

Mitori-geiko literally translates as mitori or "to sketch" and geiko or "to practice" but the nuanced  meaning is to learn something by watching and copying.

Today, most martial arts are experiential in nature in that one needs to do them to learn them.  However, this hands-on type of learning wasn't the case for centuries.

In the past most students learned mitori-geiko style in which their teachers didn't actually let them do the art for a long period of time.  Most had to clean and care for the teacher for a long  time and just watch the teacher perform the art.  After a long period of time, which I think was to vet the student's dedication, earnestness, honesty and loyalty, the teacher started to actually "teach" the student and allow them to do the art.

Today especially in the west, we don't have that luxury for a myriad of reasons to do that.  Students want to do the art and not just watch.  However, sometimes a special opportunity arises for a student to take their training, for a short period of time, back down this traditional route.

Usually this happens when a student gets injured or can't physically practice.  When a student gets injured, they usually don't come to class.  However, if a student is dedicated enough then they will show up and watch.  Most think this is somehow beneath them so most don't do this.  If a student does show up and mitori-geiko then they get the opportunity to, as they say in martial arts, develop their eye.  To develop one's eye means to learn how to see things from this art's perspective.  From this vantage point a wealth of information opens that might have been hidden while one was in the act of doing it.

In this world, our perspective is determined by how we "see" the world.  We can either choose to see something as a benefit or a detriment.  Looking at an injury as just another "way" to train enables us to use it for our own benefit.

Mitori-geiko is a wonderful opportunity to use an adversity in a positive way as we develop our eye and possibly see something that we have never seen before while at the same time demonstrating our true dedication.


Be vulnerable

o sensei sword  















Starting tonight our dojo will host a weapons seminar that caters to beginners.   Weapons are something that most Aikidoists find daunting, boring and at times mysterious.  Weapons skill can sometimes feel like it just came out of the ethos and that one needs to be a genius in order to master them.

This anxiety about weapons, or anything foreign for that matter, can either be a cause for anxiety or excitement.  How one perceives the situation dictates how they will experience it.

Werifesteria - To wander longingly through the forest in search of mystery.

I saw this word on the internet that made me think about learning and how we approach it.

By all accounts, werifesteria is actually a made up word.  A close Japanese equivalent for werifesteria might be yugen (幽玄) which I loosely translate as the mystery of something which makes it beautiful.

When we are in a forest rummaging around, there comes this point where we realize the beauty in that moment but somehow we can't quite put our finger on what it is that makes it beautiful - That is yugen.  To be in the state of yugen requires that we be vulnerable.

When I talk about vulnerability, I don't mean vulnerability from the standard definition of being easily hurt or attacked.  I mean that to experience yugen one must be in a state of openness which allows for the yugen to occur.

When we are open and willing, the world seems to open up and the experience of yugen just emerges.

Furuya Sensei used to say, "The only qualification a student needs is the right attitude."  The "right" attitude means allowing ourselves to be open and willing to learn or in other words to be vulnerable.

Brene Brown said, "Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”  When we partake in this seminar, we will all be changing.  If we allow ourselves, who we are at the beginning will not be who we are at the end.  Therefore, based on Brene Brown's definition, we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

If you are able to be vulnerable then what you don't know (aka the mystery) will somehow become beautiful or for lack of a better word - awesome.

I almost can't explain it.  When you find yourself getting nervous or anxious, just give yourself a smile, take a deep breath and say to yourself, "be vulnerable."  If you can do all three of those things then your experience will change and I guarantee that you will have a much better experience.

I wish you all a wonderfully vulnerable seminar!



Lighten your load

kata guruma 2  

Every single one of us has a story to tell, but it is in the way that we tell this story which dictates the course of our life.  We can either let our story beat us up and weigh us down or lift us up and empower us.

Sometimes people come to class dragging their day behind them.  We can see their "story" written all over their faces and in their body language.  Furuya Sensei used to say, "You can learn everything you need to learn about a person by 'how' they do Aikido."

The fact of the matter is that each and everyone of us is suffering on some level.  If we can understand this then we are more likely to be gentler, kinder and more compassionate.

Life is about choices.  We can choose to be whoever we want and life our lives in a way that makes us happy, but that choice begins with "how" we choose to carry our load around.  Another factoid is that we are here and managing to survive despite what has or hasn't happened to us.  We are all so much stronger than we realize and we demonstrate that each and every day as we face the world.

Can you see the path clearly?  If not then maybe you should change the way you tell your story and thus lighten your load.



Ubuntu = Aikido

image Interesting graphic. At its core Ubuntu's philosophy is the same as Aikido's. As Aikidoists, we choose the path of Aikido because we too understand this philosophy of humanity. Aikidoists understand that all people are good and doing the best that they can. We understand that every person is suffering and going through their own stuff. Every person deserves kindness, compassion and forgiveness just as we do too when we make a mistake. To destroy them is to destroy our own humanity too and thus a vicious cycle ensues. When the people of the tribe surround the person who made the mistake and remind them of all the good they have done, they are doing Aikido and are breaking the cycle of negativity.

Choose the road less traveled.


"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." - Lao Tzu

Are  you the  person that you want to be?  If not, there is still time to turn that around.

At its core, martial arts training is really about change.  To uninitiated, it just looks like a bunch of throws, kicks or punches but the martial arts are much deeper than that.  The martial arts are the forge which create better people - stronger, faster, or wiser people.  We all begin as one person, but by the end we are a totally different people.

It seems corny to say, but we can all be the people that we have always wanted to be.  All that is required is that we take that first step.  The main ingredient to success is putting in the work.

There is a famous Japanese proverb about perseverance:

ちりもつもれば、やまとなる Chiri mo tsumoreba, yama to naru Even dust piled up over time become mountains.

To get to where we want to go requires that we put in the work.  Just start small.  We don't always have to start so grandiose with lofty goals or extravagant efforts.  As the proverb above states that something as small as a speck of dust can become something totally different.  All we have to do to change is start small and let momentum do all the work.  Don't think about what you're getting now but rather think about the person that you are becoming.

Satisfied with who you are?  Want to change?  Want to be better?

If you are not there yet, might I suggest you go to class?